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Abraham Lincoln The Man Behind The Myth a book review

Updated on April 25, 2019

Abraham Lincoln seems to be everywhere these days on television commercials, he is still on our money, and now a movie has appeared about him too. Time has not diminished the fascination the public still has for the 16th President of the United States.

I decided to check out a book of Abraham Lincoln The Man Behind the Myth written by Stephen B. Oates in 1994. When the book first started out I wondered if it was just a listing of different books that had Lincoln as its subject matter, and it began with the myths about Lincoln. I wasn’t sure I picked the right book to read about Lincoln until I got to Part Two of the book entitled Many-Mooded Man then the book started to come alive.

In Part Two Lincoln is brought to life and we, the reader, find out many things about the man. The facts aren’t boring and we find all sorts of things about the President. Lincoln’s shoe size was a 14 and he had to have them custom made because he couldn’t find shoes in his size. A journalist said of Lincoln that no picture did him justice and that “He was a much betting looking man than any of his pictures represent.”

A Complex Man

We learn that Lincoln was a complex man who could be very friendly, but he could also be aloof and kept his feelings to himself. The book Abraham Lincoln shows how Lincoln felt about his parents, his upbringing and his ambitions to become a better person educationally and professionally.

Lincoln liked the ladies, but felt insecure about them and he didn’t get married till he was 33 which was a bit old for a first marriage in that day and time. The book is also fascinating in that we learn of more about his wife Mary her temperament, her devotion to her husband and her kids, and how people may have gotten the wrong idea about her.

A Comedian

The book brings up things that fascinated Lincoln and the fears that he had. The book also reveals the humorous side of Lincoln and shares a story that he used to tell about himself. He said when he was splitting rails with his shirt and breeches on a stranger passed by yelled at him, and Lincoln looked up. The stranger was aiming a gun at him. “What do you mean?” Lincoln sputtered. The Stranger replied that he had promised to shoot the first man he met who was uglier than he. Lincoln peered at the stranger’s face and then declared, “If I am uglier than you, then blaze away.”

Man with a Vision

The book really moves at fast pace and don’t think because it is a biography of a historical person that it is boring. This book is not.

We see how ahead of his time that Lincoln was in his beliefs in human freedom and how to achieve that goal. The book also shows the anguish Lincoln faced when the country had to go to war. He knew that many lives would have to be lost and he was hesitant to do that in the beginnings of the Civil War.

Plans for a murder

We see what happens at the end of the war and what a large challenge Lincoln had to deal with. The reader also gets to see how the south felt about Lincoln and how there were plots to take his life. We see the man John Wilkes Booth and learn what made him want to go after Lincoln. He wanted to be remembered and he achieved his goal in a different way than he imagined. The book also mentions the conspiracy to kill Lincoln and the heads of state and how it all unraveled.

Mary's Life without Lincoln

The reader enters the theater with Lincoln and his companions wanting to enjoy a good comedy. The evening ends in tragedy and a nation is shocked and angry. We also learn what happens to Mary after the assassination and how life was never the same for her.

The Book Shows Lincoln's complex nature

There have been many books written about Lincoln and this book is one that should be read. The reader gets to see the real Lincoln and how complex he really was. Stephen Oates brings history alive. The reader finishes the book and sees the human side of Lincoln his strengths, his weaknesses, his fears, his love of family and friends, and what a tragedy it was that his life was taken far too soon. Check this book out and find out more about the man with a vision.


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    • cfjots profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Conway, SC

      Hi GuitarGear thank you for your comments. A couple of my friends went to see the movie Lincoln too. Everyone seems to love it so I need to go see the movie too. This book lets you see the personality of Lincoln it was very interesting.

    • GuitarGear profile image

      Walter Holokai 

      6 years ago from Youngstown, Ohio

      My wife and I just saw "Lincoln" at the theater. It was a great movie. I'll be upset if Daniel Day Lewis and Tommy Lee Jones don't win Oscars. It makes me want to know more about Lincoln and the abolitionist movement. Thanks for the great hub and now I'm going to buy the book.


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